Polanski's 'Carnage' wows critics in Venice

Rounds of applause and riotous laughter met Roman Polanski's grotesque comedy of manners "Carnage" at the press screening in Venice on Thursday ahead of the world premiere in the evening.

The screen adaptation of playwright Yasmina Reza's acclaimed Broadway play "The God of Carnage," Polanski's film tells the tale of two sets of parents who meet up to talk after their children get into a fight at school.

Electric comic timing and star performances from an A-list cast of Kate Winslet, Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly and Christopher Waltz drive the film, shot in real time as the adults try settle the dispute with unpredictable twists.

Though "Carnage" is set in Brooklyn, it was shot in Paris as the French-Polish director is unable to travel freely around Europe because he is wanted in the United States following a conviction there for unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl in 1977.

Fears of extradition from other European countries - notably Italy, which has a long history of cooperation with the United States - means Polanski will not be present on the red carpet Thursday evening.

Critics will inevitably draw a comparison between Polanski's status and the film's claustrophobic atmosphere, with the use of close up shots, mirrored reflections and characters who pace back and forth in a tiny apartment.

Stars Winslet and Foster are expected to wow paparazzi at the premiere, joining a host of other Hollywood greats who are arriving on the Venice Lido by water taxi, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon and Keira Knightley.

But it is pop-star Madonna who is expected to draw the crowds on Thursday as she appears on the red carpet ahead of the screening of her second film as a director, "W.E.", which will be shown out of competition.

The star landed at Venice airport late on Wednesday evening, looking glamorous in a black outfit, with a check shirt and sunglasses, and headed for the luxury Bauer hotel on Venice's Grand Canal.

Her film, starring British actors James D'Arcy and Andrea Riseborough, tells the tale of King Edward VIII's controversial romance with American divorcee Wallis Simpson - through the eyes of a lonely modern-day New Yorker.

"W.E" and "Carnage" are in the running for the Golden Lion award at Venice this year against a host of other films, including Wei Te-Sheng's "Seediq Bale," a fierce Taiwanese epic featuring warring tribes.

With a record production cost of 24 million dollars, "Seediq Bale" brings to the big screen the true story about a rebellion of aboriginal tribes against their Japanese colonial rulers in Taiwan in 1930 - and their ultimate defeat.

Produced by renowned Hong Kong-based director John Woo - whose Hollywood films include "Face Off" and "Mission Impossible 2" - the film alternates between fight scenes and moments of spiritual anguish for the proud tribesmen.

Stunning cinematography captures the untamed beauty of Wushu, a tribal township on Mount Chilai, where the concept of freedom is inextricably linked to hunting wild animals through lush undergrowth.

"The film tells the story of an encounter between a people who believe in rainbows and a nation which believes in the sun - a heroic battle in defence of faith and dignity," Wei said about his most ambitious work to date.

Over 12 years in the making, "Seediq Bale" features a cast of 15,000, many of whom were hand picked for the part in a door-to-door search throughout Taiwan for people with the right characteristics: specifically, "hunters eyes."

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